A brief history:
England is traditionally referred to as the ‘Home of Football’ or ‘Soccer’. The basic fundamentals and development of the game have however actually evolved over ‘literally’ thousands of years of history. In this article, I will take a look at when was soccer invented and some of the countries which are credited as contributors to the games invention and Soccer as we know it today. Before going on to look at how it modernized and then became a professional sport.
Countries credited with Soccer’s invention:
China (206B.C – 220A.D)
One of the earliest and most influential examples of a game with similarities to modern day Soccer occurred during the period of the Han Dynasty which ruled from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. China played a game called Cuju or Tsu’Chu, Tsu-Chu, the literal translation of which is ‘kicking the ball’. Some forms of Cuju were played for entertainment by the wealthy in cities like Linzi, whilst a competitive form of Cuju was used by the Chinese military as a form of fitness training. Such was its popularity it even spread from the army to the ‘upper classes’ and royal courts.
In China the sport that most resembled Soccer occurred during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) when the original feather-stuffed ball was replaced by an air-filled ball with a two-layered hull. Also, two different types of goal posts emerged. One was made by setting up posts with a net between them and the other consisted of just one goal post in the middle of the field. Further resemblances to Soccer are that Cuju was played on a rectangular field by two teams, the use of hands were banned and each team would similarly try to kick the ball into a goal. Cuju was very popular in China for centuries and though its popularity eventually declined, there are still teams in China which try and keep the tradition alive today.
A modern day video with an explanation of Cuju can be seen here:
Cuju influenced the development of Kemari in Japan – and whilst this is really just a game of ‘Keepie Uppie’ or “Hacky Sack’, it similarly to Cuju has stood the test of time and is kept alive today. George H W Bush even sportingly played a part in a game on one of his presidential visits to Japan!
Several other countries can also lay claim to contributing to and pre-dating modern day Soccer as we know it:
Greece’s claim to the origins of soccer revolves around the game Episkyros. However, to be honest if you look into the game further here, it has more of a resemblance to modern day ‘Rugby’ than it does Soccer.
Ancient Rome’s claims to playing a part in the origination of Soccer stem from the game Harpastum. Little is known about Harpastum, though it appears to have developed from the Greek game of Episkyros and therefore again would have more of a resemblance to modern day ‘Rugby’.
It is noteworthy however as due to the vast reaches of the Roman Empire at the time, the game would have largely spread around the world including into England, where modern-day soccer is was invented.
Parts of central and northern South America can also lay claim to having an impact on modern day Soccer, for as far back as 1600 BC, a game the Mayans called Pok a Tok and the Aztecs called Tlachtli was played. Unlike some of the other sports we’ve mentioned, this game wasn’t played on a rectangular field but an I-shaped court. However, despite occurring almost 4000 years ago, the game did feature two teams who tried to get the ball into the opposition’s end of the court while keeping the ball in the air and not using their hands!
Played for religious reasons rather than recreational (members of the losing team could even be sacrificed!), it is hard to make a case that it has any direct correlation with modern day ‘Soccer’ other than a “kickball game” was being played in Central America a long time before anywhere else in the world.
Scottish claims to Soccer’s origination date back to 1424 when King James I outlawed the game because he felt it was too disruptive. Its main claim however is based round the fact that the oldest existing football in the worldwas discovered in the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle and dates from around 1540. Moreover, the world’s earliest formed Soccer club ‘The Foot-ball Club of Edinburgh’ is also credited as being formed there in 1824.
The home of ‘Football’ – England:
To go into the origins of ‘Football’ in England is an article in itself so I will simply layout out the when, how and why it came into existence as we know it today. Known as ‘Association Football’ or ‘Soccer’ – ‘Football’ began in England with the laying down of rules by the Football Association (or FA) in 1863.
Indeed, whilst no single individual can realistically lay claim to being the ‘inventor’ of football, Ebenezer Morley has been referred to as the ‘father’ of the FA. The founder of Barnes Football Club, it was Morley’s letter to the ‘Bell’s Life’ newspaper that prompted a historic meeting which established the new ‘official’ rules of the game which were an amalgamation of ‘unofficial rules’ which were already in operation across England. The meeting took place on October 26th, 1863 at the Freemasons’ Tavern on Great Queen Street in London and involved representatives from 12 clubs. Thereafter, the game of football or soccer as we now know it was soon codified.
Nowadays, the game of football or soccer is presided over globally by FIFA, which was established in 1904 with the IFAB (International Football Association Board), founded in 1886. IFAB, the so-called ‘guardian’ of the Laws of the Game, however is now also run by FIFA as are the four British associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
So who then can be said to have invented Soccer?
This is basically a question I think that can only be answered in a dual way:
Soccer’s origination and development occurred over time: ‘Cuju’ in China and Linzi (where it was mostly played) in particular I think fairly credited in 2005 by FIFA President Sepp Blatter as the first real examples of the modern game and the birthplace of world football.
Conversely, the modern game is almost universally accepted as being invented in England.
Despite the fact England is known as the home of football/soccer, there were actually frequent attempts by Monarchs to ban it throughout history – so it was lucky it ever came to pass! (Pun intended)